In 2018, Kenyans in the diaspora sent home $2.72 billion. This amount went beyond the Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK) 2018 target of $2.593 billion. The top five remitting nations were the United Kingdom, the United States, Tanzania, Canada, and Uganda.
There are over 3 million Kenyans in the diaspora employed in a wide range of fields with others running businesses. Many leave their families behind and regularly send money home to supplement household income.
When sending money home, most Kenyans in the diaspora use money transfer services such as Western Union and MoneyGram while others use inter-bank transfers for large amounts.
Mobile money services such as Mpesa and Airtel Money and T-Kash have become instrumental for within-the-country transfers as well as international transfers. Therefore, if you are a Kenyan in the diaspora and looking at ways of sending money to your family, there are many options you can use.
This guide looks at the various ways you can send money home, the benefits and undersides of the different sending options, what information you need to send money to Kenya, and the different factors to think about as you send home.
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There are multiple ways to easily send and receive money in Kenya but these will largely depend on the provider you decide to use. Below you will find everything you need to know about sending and receiving money.
If you want to send money to Kenya, you can do so through different channels such as mobile money transfers, inter-bank transfers, PayPal, and online money transfer services. Let us look at each one of them in detail.
Many Kenyans in the diaspora use inter-bank transfers to send money home. These transfers can take different forms depending on the preferences of the sender and recipient, and the bank used.
You can make SWIFT transfers from your account abroad to a Kenyan bank account such as KCB, Equity, NIC, or CBA bank. The transfers take anywhere from 3 to 5 business days depending on the country you are transferring from, the currency, and time of day or day of the week.
Banks such as Equity Bank and CBA banks have customised money transfer services and that allow Kenyans in the diaspora to send to their families. Equity bank has Equity Direct while CBA has partnered with Exchange 4 Free to allow diaspora Kenyans to send money to CBA accounts locally.
MoneyGram, Western Union, WorldRemit, Transfast, TransferWise, Ria, and Xoom are some of the top money transfer services in Kenya. Western Union and MoneyGram are among the oldest while Xoom and Ria are the newest in the country.
Setting up on these platforms is simple as all you need is to sign up for an online transfer account, pay for your transfer and send to your family in Kenya. The entire process can take up to 30 minutes to complete. Western Union and MoneyGram allow you to send from physical stores or start the process online and complete it instore.
If you want to pay for your transfer, you can use a debit card, credit card, or bank transfer. Some payment methods may be available in one country and absent in others. For instance, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Sofort, iDEAL, and Poli can only be used in certain countries.
There are three main ways through which you can send money to Kenya using money transfer services: bank transfers, cash pickup, and mobile money transfers.
Bank Transfers- This method allows you to send money directly to a Kenyan-based bank account. It is a faster and more convenient way for sending larger amounts. Western Union has partnered with banks such as KCB, Equity, NIC, DTB, and Co-op bank to offer direct-to-bank deposits.
Mobile Wallet-Kenya is one of the pioneers of mobile money in Africa and ranks high in the world. Money Transfer Operators (MTOs) such as MoneyGram and WesternUnion have partnered with Mpesa, a mobile money transfer service in Kenya, to provide direct transfers to mobile wallets. Over 33.1 million Kenyan have an Mpesa wallet on their smartphones and basic feature phones.
Cash Pickup – Providers in Kenya have an extensive payout network with thousands of agent locations countrywide. For instance, Western Union has 1,400 agent locations in Kenya including banks. Xpress Money has a partnership with SBM bank to use its branches as agent locations in addition to independent stores.
If both you and the recipient have PayPal accounts, you can transfer money to your family. In Kenya, PayPal has partnered with Mpesa and Thunes, a Singaporean B2B money transfer service to enable PayPal transfers to Kenya. Signing up for a PayPal account is free.
Kenyans in the diaspora can send money through Mpesa. For instance, Kenyans in the United Kingdom can visit agent locations in Reading, London, Luton, Wembley and Glasgow to deposit and send money to their families in Kenya through the Mpesa International Money Transfer (IMT) service.
The transfer comes instantly into the recipient’s mobile phone from where they can withdraw at any agent location countrywide.
Kenya is a crucial gateway to Eastern Africa and unfortunately borders some of the most volatile and terrorism prone regions like Somalia, South Sudan, and the Republic of Sudan. For this reason, transfers to Kenya are highly monitored. The following information will be required to send to Kenya.
As part of the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations, you may be required to provide more information when sending. However, this depends on the country you are sending from, the amount, and the provider.
Most Kenyans in the diaspora go to fend for their families and to look for capital to start businesses back home. There is a local television programme in Kenya known as Daring Abroad, that airs on KTN, a local broadcasting network. It follows Kenyans in the diaspora, interviewing them and compiling televised reports.
Out of this and many other media and research reports, the following are some of the reasons Kenyans send money home.
Households, especially from the rural areas have little to depend on. They have bills to pay and food to buy. Kenyans in the diaspora send money home to cater to some of these basic needs. Their remittances form an important supplement to household income if any.
Though the Kenyan government runs a free public primary school education system and a highly subsidised secondary school programme, tertiary education can cost an arm and a leg. Those who opt for private and international schools because of quality, have to dig deeper into their pockets to finance their education.
Banks and mortgage associations in Kenya target households with a constant stream of income to loan them money to buy houses. Diaspora Kenyans are especially an attractive target due to their high-income streams.
Investing in Kenya’s real estate is one of the common trends with diaspora Kenyans. Some of them build houses which they sell, others invest through building societies and real estate companies, while some buy ready-built houses for rentals.
Corporate and government bonds are also an attractive investment for diaspora Kenyans. The Nairobi Stock Exchange and banks are constantly encouraging Kenyans abroad to invest in their tailored products.
The government has a medical insurance scheme for both salaried and non-salaried Kenyans. For as little as $5 a month, Kenyans can access basic health care through the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). However, not many Kenyans can make the monthly contributions and those who need specialised care may be forced to seek treatment from private facilities.
Kenyans abroad send money home for community projects, weddings, and celebrations such as Easter, Madaraka Day, Mashujaa Day, and Jamhuri Day.
When sending money to your loved ones in Kenya, using money transfer services is one of the best choices you can ever make. Some of the benefits of MTOs include:
There are three main things you should think about as you send money to Kenya: taxation, sending limits imposed by Mpesa, and anti-money laundering regulations enforced by the Central Bank of Kenya.
Having the right information when sending or receiving money in Kenya can save you a lot of inconveniences and costs. Ensure that you compare the fees and exchange rates used across the different providers for the best deal.
There are several very fast options if you want to transfer money to Kenya. The most generic and affordable option is the fast version of Ria Money Transfers. With Ria Money Transfers, you can expect your funds to reach its Kenyan destination in a matter of minutes.
The downsides to Ria Money Transfer are that the service is not the easiest option to use, and the faster option is not the cheapest. That being said, Ria Money Transfer’s fast option is a great balance between cost and speed. Many of the slower money transfer services cast far more than Ria Money Transfer.
The cheapest way is through XE trade. XE trade has no upfront fees for sending funds to Kenya, and their hidden currency conversion fees are minimal when compared to the competition.
With XE trade, you can expect consistently cheap money transfers to Kenya. The only downside is the waiting time, which should normally be 3-5 business days.
The easiest way to send money is through Payoneer. Payoneer is an all-around great option when it comes to convenience as well. They are also one of the few money transfer services that allow you to send funds to a debit card. From there, the money can be immediately withdrawn from an ATM. The rates they offer are rather competitive as well.
The current exchange rate for the Kenyan Shilling (KES) is 101.6498 KES per American Dollar (USD) as of the time this was written. The KES reached a high of 103.9503 KES per USD during the last 90 days, while the low was 101.1498 KES per USD.
The average exchange rate over the last 90 days was 103.1683 KES per USD. The average volatility of the KES against the USD was 0.19% over the last 90 days. This is a relatively low volatility rate, and the last two years have seen the KES remain fairly stable recently. The only exception would be a major depreciation in value during the final months of 2018. The KES has since rebounded, and you can reasonably expect minor fluctuations going forward, barring unforeseen circumstances
The overall best way to transfer funds to Kenya is through Ria Money Transfer (the FAST service). The fast service of Ria Money Transfer costs more than the cheaper, slower version, but the prices are still competitive. The main benefit that you get with the fast service is a great rate given the fact that it usually takes just minutes for the transfer to be completed.